At the recent 16th session of FAO inter-governmental group conference held in Bali, delegates of the governments representing tea-producing and consuming countries felt that by 2014 there would be excess supply of 92mkg of tea in the global market.
As there was every possibility of inferior material getting into this surplus, it was necessary that quality measures were taken.
The meeting generally agreed that steps had to be taken to implement the ISO 3720 quality norms across the world to tide over the quality crisis, according to United Planters Association of South India (Upasi) secretary-general Ullas Menon, who was part of the Indian delegation.
There was much praise for India, which was the only country that had strictly enforced the ISO norms. This would help put a check on exports and ensure that only good quality material was shipped out.
India had implemented the PFA norms for both imported and exported material. Indian PFA standards were in accordance with those demanded by ISO 3720.
They generally deal with the levels of total ash, water soluble ash, acidic soluble ash and alkalinity of water soluble ash contents and the water soluble extract in the teas.
It was only in the case of crude fibre content where Indian permissible standards were at 16.5% while the ISO limit was 17%.
Meanwhile, India has been authorised to work out the parameters for the minimum residue limit (MRL) in tea to be presented at the WTO. Dr TC Choudhary of the Tea Board has been given the charge of nodal agent to make ready the codex format to meet WTO requirements.
At present, there are no MRLs fixed except for Europe, which has certain specifications. Dr Muraledharan, director of UPASI-Tea Research Foundation, told FE that already the foundation had made some field studies in this matter to be presented before the codex committee.
According to Mr Menon, there was need to generate field data on residual levels from gardens across the globe.
Tea-producing countries would collect the data which would be forwarded to the nodal agent.
Based on the data, Dr Choudhary would formulate a codex format that should meet the WTO requirements. Once the format was presented before the codex committee of the FAO and accepted by the various countries, it would have to be pushed through the WTO forum.